HomeFootballKerry stumble past Derry in woeful quarter-final to set up All-Ireland semi-final...

Kerry stumble past Derry in woeful quarter-final to set up All-Ireland semi-final against Armagh

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Level at 0-6 apiece at half time, Kerry found a little more in the second half to beat the National League champions and join Armagh, Galway and Donegal in the semi-finals

Kerry 0-15

Derry 0-10

Kerry will play Armagh in one of the All-Ireland semi-finals in two weeks after getting the better of Derry in a dreary quarter-final that Jack O’Connor and his players will care not a whit about the quality or lack of same after their five-point win.

With Dublin’s exit from the Championship on Saturday evening, Kerry will no doubt be installed as favourites to lift the Sam Maguire cup now, with themselves, Armagh, Donegal and Galway left in the race, but no one will fear the Kingdom on the basis of these 75 minutes against a Derry team who have finally been put out of their championship misery.

Three points in the five additional minutes played – from Sean O’Shea, Dylan Geaney and Gavin White – gives the impression on the final score that Kerry were comfortable winners, but it was only really in the final 15 minutes that the Munster champions finally shook off a sticky Derry team that were nowhere close in performance to the side that ran Kerry to a two-point win in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final.

Jack O’Connor had warned of Derry being a “dangerous animal” coming into this game under such low expectations from the wider public, and while Mickey Harte’s team gnawed away at Kerry’s collective leg for the bones of an hour, the old snarl and bit of 2023 – or, indeed, this year’s National League – was glaringly missing.

It might be condescending to suggest that Derry’s shortcomings dragged Kerry’s performance down to their level, giving us a dog’s dinner of a game as a result, but Kerry were, at best, a five-out-of-10 team in Croker Park on Sunday afternoon, and will surely have to better themselves by a couple of marks when they take on Armagh in a fortnight.

The first half was as a grim a half of football as has been seen in Croke Park – or anywhere for that matter – all summer, the sort of stuff that will surely have had the Football Review Committee scratching their heads and filling their notebooks.

The half ended all square, 0-6 apiece, with Kerry once enjoying a two-point lead, but the best that can be said for the first 35 minutes was that is was a contest, and that it only lasted 35 minutes.

Forty second into the game Derry’s centre back Gareth McKinless broke through a fired a shot across Shane Ryan’s goal, and we wondered were we in for the helter-skelter ride these two teams gave us in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final. That shot was, alas, the storm before the calm.

In the second minute David Clifford stretched his long legs for the first time, gliding past three Derry men before scoring from 20 metres. Four minutes later Conor Glass kicked Derry’s first score, with little Kerry pressure on the midfielder, and so it went.

Large passages of lateral ‘keep ball’ in front of massed defences pock-marked by the odd turnover, the sometimes wide and the occasional score. Tony Brosnan pointed for Kerry and then David Clifford plucked a brilliant high ball from between two Derry men for an advanced mark, which he converted to put Kerry two ahead.

Derry responded with two Shane McGuigan points within a minute of each other, and that was the thing. When the scores arrived some of them were top quality, it was just that we had to sift through so much chaff for the very odd ear of wheat.

In the 12th minute Paul Murphy fisted his shot off the post, with Gavin White and then Tadhg Morley having shots on the Derry goal blocked by some outstanding defending in the same passage play, but thereafter the game quickly settled back into its all too structured and ponderous rhythm.

McGuigan’s third point in the 14th minute put Derry 0-4 to 0-3 ahead, and in the second quarter Kerry points from Brian Ó Beaglaioch, Joe O’Connor and Paul Geaney, with Brendan Rogers and McGuigan for Derry leaving it 0-6 apiece at the break.

Five minutes into the second half and McGuigan won a free which he converted to give Derry the lead again, but Kerry hit back with scores from Diarmuid O’Connor and a David Clifford free.

The game was still slow and ponderous and rarely engaging what was left of the 47,406 that were in attendance – the Donegal and Louth supporters from the first game were steadily drifting away by now – and then in the 50th minute the crowd finally came to life. Chrissy McKaigue and Clifford tussled near the Hogan Stand sideline and then Sean O’Shea cut inside the Derry defence and went to ground in the large square and it finally seemed we might have a proper game on our hands.

Paul Cassidy clipped as Derry equaliser in off the post and as we hit the hour-mark Rogers replied in kind to Killian Spillane’s point to leave it 0-10 to 0-9 in Kerry’s favour.

But Derry were looking a tired team, handling errors betraying some good turnovers and as Kerry ran their bench they seemed to get a little extra energy. Tony Brosnan and a Sean O’Shea free opened up the game’s first three-point gap and Derry looked spent. Another Kerry sub, Cillian Burke, won a free for O’Shea to convert in the 72nd minute and that was that.

Odhran Lynch kicked Derry’s last point – a fitting end to Derry’s season that their wanderlust goalkeeper should raise their final white flag – as Dylan Geaney and White iced the win for Kerry.

KERRY: Shane Ryan; Paul Murphy, Jason Foley, Tom O’Sullivan; Brian Ó Beaglaioch 0-1, Tadhg Morley, Gavin White 0-1; Diarmuid O’Connor 0-1, Joe O’Connor 0-1; Tony Brosnan 0-2, Paudie Clifford, Dara Moynihan; David Clifford 0-3 (1f, 1m), Sean O’Shea 0-3 (2f), Paul Geaney 0-1.

Subs: Cillian Burke for D Moynihan (53), Killian Spillane 0-1 for P Geaney (57), Dylan Geaney 0-1 for T Brosnan (62), Adrian Spillane for J O’Connor (68), Mike Breen for B Ó Beaglaioch (72)

DERRY: Odhran Lynch 0-1; Conor McCluskey, Chrissy McKaigue, Diarmuid Baker; Conor Doherty, Gareth McKinless, Eoin McEvoy; Conor Glass 0-1, Brendan Rogers 0-2, Ethan Doherty, Ciaran McFaul, Paul Cassidy; Eunan Mulholland, Shane McGuigan 0-5 (2f), Lachlan Murray.

Subs: Niall Toner for E Mulholland (39), Niall Loughlin for L Murray (59), Emmet Bradley for C McFaul (65), Cormac Murphy for P Cassidy (65)

REFEREE: David Coldrick (Meath)

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